Who We Are

Reclaiming the lives of hundreds of young people a year, Avenues for Justice is one of the most successful -- and cost-effective -- methods for crime prevention.
Executive director Angel Rodriguez (left) with young people who turned around their lives with Avenues for Justice.
Executive director Angel Rodriguez (left) with young people who turned around their lives with Avenues for Justice.

In 1979, Avenues for Justice reached into overcrowded Manhattan criminal courtrooms and found youths who might turn their lives around if they only had a second chance. We presented the courts with an idea: instead of sentencing young people to prison, judges could send them to AFJ for counseling, training, education and employment assistance.  

This simple tactic -- keeping youths out of prison -- has saved the lives of hundreds of young lives every year for four decades. At a time when the U.S. incarceration rate is the highest of any nation in the world and a cycle of arrests and imprisonment has become the norm within many low-income communities, AFJ has bucked the trend to become one of the most successful and cost-effective crime prevention programs in America.

Saving Kids, Saving Taxes

--It costs about $353,000 a year to put a youth in a New York State juvenile detention center for a year, and only 25%-50% remain crime-free when they get out.

--It costs only $5,200 a year to keep a youth in Avenues for Justice, and 90% of program graduates stay out of prison.

How does AFJ do it? Our two youth centers in the Lower East Side and East Harlem give juvenile offenders the chance to build new lives without prison or crime. Working from each court or community referral, our staff develops a personalized plan for reform. Avenues for Justice breaks the wasteful cycle of unproductive and repeated incarceration by replacing it with true rehabilitation and second chances for youths: accountability and supervision, mentorship, education, job training and employment. We also help them discover and nurture previously hidden talents. As an integral part of our transparency, we regularly give progress reports to the court.

Stopping Crime Without Prison

Avenues for Justice addresses the problems that get youths into trouble: family issues, drug habits, alcohol abuse, limited literacy and need for counselling, job training or tutoring. Sometimes, they just need a safe place to live, food and clothing.

AFJ's three primary goals:

For 40 years, AFJ has pursued a three-fold mission to:

1. Intervene to divert and reclaim young people from the lives of crime by providing alternatives of education, job-readiness training, counseling with appropriate referrals, and positive, supportive role models;
2. Provide an overloaded court system with a reliable, effective and inexpensive alternative to incarceration of youth;
3. Make New York City safer for everyone through on ongoing focus on crime prevention.

Working out of donated office space in the Manhattan Criminal Court, AFJ gets 95% of its funding from private sources. The flexibility afforded by that private funding has greatly contributed to the success rate. Avenues for Justice doesn't have to cut off support for clients at an arbitrary age level. We continue to work with them even when they cross an age line which theoretically defines adulthood. This increases our effectiveness, ultimately making our clients more successful. 

We celebrate the fact that our success has made New York a safer and more just city for everyone by restoring futures, investing wisely, and building stronger families and communities.

Photo: Marty Umans